Tuesday, 30 November 2010

CFZ India Expedition report #4

A Christmas (Beetle) Tale

Generations of Australian children have annually welcomed the appearance of 'Christmas Beetles', aka Anoplognathus montanus, which traditionally herald the warmer months Down Under and signal that Christmas Day isn't too far away.

The 'thwack' of the colourful insects against the screen door and their discovery inside everything from the laundry basket to school bags has been something of an annual event. 

However, children growing up in Australian cities are today unlikely to sight the pretty iridiscent-shelled beetle - and scientists believe it is man who is to blame.

The beetles' numbers are falling as the city's expansion demolishes their feeding grounds, and strips away the soil needed for the beetle larvae, where they spend up to two years growing to the pupa stage.

Another victim of urbanisation and the shrinking Australian backyard.

Sad but true :-(

OOPA: Fox debate rages on in Tasmania

More than a decade after the reported introduction of foxes to Tasmania many people believe that foxes are established, yet others believe that a breeding population does not exist and never has. The elephant in the living room is that a number of things don’t seem to add up and the living room floor is about to collapse if we ignore these things for much longer.

Biologist Dr Clive Marks questions the science being relied upon, and argues for an independent scientific review of the entire application of the scat-DNA technique to confirm once and for all the validity of OOPA foxes in Tasmania.

Elsewhere on the same site, biologist Nick Mooney addresses many of the issues Dr Marks raises, and confirms $20 million has so far been spent trying to discover if foxes really are in Tasmania - and cautions sceptics not to 'throw the baby out with the bath water' when contemplating the existence of Vulpes vulpes in the island state. 

Overseas readers may wonder what the big deal is...the fox is obviously not native to Australia and, until relatively recently, the island state of Tasmanian was considered fox free. So is it or isn't it? That is the question...

Monday, 29 November 2010

Wildmen of South-East Asia

Dale Drinnon has an excellent write-up on the wildmen of SE Asia this week over at the CFZ UK blog.

It seems that generally there is a larger and a smaller type of 'Wildman' throughout Southeast Asia, and they both correspond to the types in India, Tibet and China as well. In other words, the 'Wildmen' of Vietnam, Cambodia and so on are contiguous with the Chinese 'Wildmen' and the Indian 'Wildmen' (Such as the ones recently sought by a CFZ expedition) Ivan Sanderson identified the larger type as the Tok and Kung-Lu in Southeast Asia, but they are the same as the Shan (and variants) in South China and North Vietnam, as well as the larger type of "Yeti", and the larger type of Chinese 'Wildman'

Read the whole thing here.

Normanton's monster croc '8m long'

COULD this be Normanton's own "Loch Ness Monster", an elusive 8m giant that has residents in the Gulf thinking twice before taking out the tinnie?

Rumours of a massive croc lurking near the township of Normanton have revived memories of the famed 8.6m monster shot in the Norman River in 1957, and claimed as a world record.

Local pastor Elton Thompson sparked a frenzy last week when he produced photographs of a croc slide about 1km from town, which indicate the presence of a huge animal with a girth of up to 2m.

Now fisherman Clint Spry has revealed photos he took of a huge croc in the Norman River with a tail "as long as my boat".

"It had locked jaws with an albino crocodile and was just throwing it around like a rag doll," Mr Spry told The Sunday Mail.

"The tail on it alone was as long as my whole boat . . . 3.8 metres."

Pastor Thompson started a sensation when he put his photos of huge slide marks and claw prints on his Facebook page and relayed a story of a crocodile recently spotted at the same location that was "at least as big, if not bigger" than the legendary 8.6m Savannah King, that has a life-size replica in Normanton.

As national media outlets picked up the story, locals debated whether the croc really was that big or, well, just a crock.

One publican insists: "It's a wives' tale. There are no crocs that big near Normanton."

Others are adamant an oversize croc has been in the area for some time, growing bigger every year since Queensland banned commercial hunting in the '70s.

Long-time local Terry Cummings didn't hesitate when asked if he thought an 8m croc could be lurking in the area.

"I was here in the '50s and saw them that big," he said.

Herbie Harold, 52, who found the original slide marks and alerted his pastor, said he had seen a massive croc in the same spot once before.

The Sunday Mail enlisted Mr Harold's expertise last week in a bid to find the monster (one of Elton's photos is shown below).

From the archives: A 'true' bunyip tale? (1909)

CFZ India Expedition report #3

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Natural History Museum: Behind the scenes

Australia's ABC TV is airing 'Museum of Life' on Tuesday, November 30 - a fascinating six-part program that steps behind the scenes at one of the world's most famous institutions: the Museum of Natural History in the UK.

What happens behind the scenes at the Museum? Why is it important to preserve the
70 million specimens in the collections and how relevant is the research of museum scientists to today’s challenges, like biodiversity loss and the spread of tropical diseases? The BBC documentary Museum of Life will answer these questions and many more.

The opening episode looks at some of the millions of specimens in the Museum's collections. They come in all shapes and sizes, and from many different countries, but how important are they today? Who has access to them, and what does the future hold for this impressive data source?

Museum of Life airs at 8.30pm on ABC TV, Tuesday, November 30.

CFZ India Expedition report #2

Another exciting snapshot of the recent expedition...

Saturday, 27 November 2010

CFZ India Expedition report #1

The first in a series of videos about the recent CFZ India Expedition 2010:

It's not so hard to believe in Megalania

Occasionally, when a species colonises an island, it undergoes ‘insular gigantism’ and grow to several times their initial size. Until recently, this theory was used to account for the large size of the Komodo dragon (pictured above).

But it turns out dragons are not an oddity of island evolution – they’re one of the few surviving relics from an era when large-bodied carnivores roamed Australia and Southeast Asia. Three sites have been discovered across Queensland that contain fossils of dragons the same size as the creatures we see today, says Scott Hocknull, the senior curator of geosciences at the Queensland Museum. 

“Our data reject the long-held perception that V. komodoensis became a giant because of insular evolution,” Hocknull and colleagues wrote in the journal PLoS One in 2009. “The Komodo dragon first evolved on mainland Australia, probably in response to the Megafauna,” he says. The Australian fossils range from 3.5 million to 300,000 years old, though dragons might have been around until the Megafauna extinction 50,000 years ago.

About 3.5 millions years ago, dragons were the dominant lizard in Australia. Then, 1.8 million years ago, an even more fearsome lizard emerged; Megalania (Varanus prisca) could grow up to 5.5 m long and weigh 600 kg. 

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Lamington Triangle - Yowies galore

The magnificent Lamington National Park in Queensland is well-known as a Yowie hot-spot - boasting hundreds of sightings of the shaggy manbeasts (or manimals, bush apes, yahoos - whatever you prefer to call them) - and it also has a forbidding reputation as a wilderness area, claiming many lives in its many decades as a national park.

One of the most famous Lamington National Park yowie witnesses is the former Queensland Senator Bill O'Chee, who as a schoolboy saw a giant gorilla-like beast that he said looked like the Star Wars character 'Chewbacca'.

The park lies on the Lamington Plateau of the McPherson Range on the Queensland/New South Wales border. From Southport on the Gold Coast the park is 85 km to the southwest and Brisbane is 110 km north. Lamington National Park is also renowned for its natural beauty, rainforests, birdlife, ancient trees, waterfalls, walking tracks and mountain views.

In this short clip, courtesy of Michael Hardcastle, several seasoned bushmen, including Bernard O'Reilly (author of the Australian classic Cullenbenbong, which mentions the 'Gubba') talk about the park, its grisly reputation and the mysterious hairy men that lurk in its rarely explored forests - the Yowies.

The adventures of Tim Tyler and 'Fang' the black panther #2

Thursday, 25 November 2010

'Cat people' look at NZ panther

The August 2010 issue of New Zealand's Investigate Magazine featured a special report on New Zealand's panther sightings by the authors of Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers, Rebecca Lang and Michael Williams.

You can read the feature by following this link: http://issuu.com/iwishart/docs/investigateaug2010

Rare extinct NZ Moa skull listed on TradeMe

A rare skull of Moa, a species of bird which became extinct thousands of years ago, has been put for sale on the internet by a New Zealand man who claims the artefact was discovered by his father in the 1950s.

The seller, Glen Brady of Hamilton, who trades under the name 'construct11' on the online trading website Trade Me, said the skull was discovered by his father in the 1950s while working for a bridge company in the Waitomo area of New Zealand.

'My father died a few months ago. He left the skull to me. It has been in a cupboard for many years,' Brady was quoted as saying by the New Zealand Herald.

The skull, belonging to the extinct Anomalopteryx didiformis, is 145 mm long, 80 mm wide and 65 mm high. The sale ends at 12.51 p.m. Friday.

Brady, who expects the skull to fetch him $10,000, said he was selling it to raise money for buying a house.

'I'm loathe to sell it. I'd like to keep it but it is the difference between getting into a house and not getting into a house,' he said. 'It is a very treasured possession, but it is a possession that will possibly change my life.'

He consulted Webb's auction house managing director Neil Campbell prior to placing the auction, who told him the artefact was very rare. Brady was not sure how much the skull was worth.

'I personally don't think $10,000 is too bad,' he said. 'I've never seen a moa skull on Trade Me before.'

Brady said he was waiting for written confirmation of the authenticity of the skull from Te Papa palaeontologist Alan Tennyson.

Te Papa spokeswoman Jane Keig said most of the museum's moa remains are not on display, the museum does have two skeletons on display and doesn't have the space to display all its moa remains.

She said the museum had around 100 full and partial moa skulls. 'The primary purpose of the artefacts is for scientific research,' Keig said.

To date, the skull has failed to sell.

Bad luck not bad genes ended Thylacoleo's reign

Marsupial predators are not the poor cousins of the carnivore world, as has long been thought: new research shows that they have been just as diverse as placental carnivores over time.

"We've looked at the deep-time perspective and shown that over evolutionary history marsupial carnivores have been every bit as varied in shape and habit as their placental counterparts," says Dr Stephen Wroe, an author of a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"Their ranks have included creatures as bizarre as the Argentinean pouched sabretooth, which sported monstrous, self-sharpening canine teeth that extended almost back into its braincase, and Australia’s own marsupial lion (Thyalcoleo carnifex, a skeleton of which is pictured above), which had teeth like bolt-cutters and the muscle power to match.”

“It seems likely that the diversity in skull shape among marsupial carnivores reflects a diversity in lifestyle that once was quite comparable to that of placentals,” says Dr Wroe, an expert in mammalian carnivore evolution. “Our results reinforce my own conclusion that the lack of marsupial predators in the world today has more to do with bad luck than bad genes.”

China's Wild Man could be real deal

Exciting news from China this week - The Shennongjia Nature Reserve in Hubei province has examined a strand of hair which it has not managed to identify, prompting local people to speculate that it may belong to the 'Wild Man' aka the Yeren, China's own Bigfoot!

Piao Jinlan, a researcher at the reserve, said that scientists need to continue their tests before they could identify the species. The hair is said to be thicker than human hair and thinner than horsetail hair, and the reserve posted a photo on its website on November 22.

More than 400 people have claimed to have seen the half-man, half-ape "Wild Man" in the area in the last 100 years. Witnesses describe the creature as walking upright, more than 2 meters tall and with grey, red or black hair all over its body.

An investigative team was set up in 2009 and started a large-scale search for the mysterious creature in Shennongjia this year.

And there's this from the CFZ archives: As far back as 1981 people were pondering alleged Wild Man 'nests, hair, tracks and faeces...

Mogo Zoo welcomes Sumatran Tiger cubs

Mogo Zoo on the NSW south coast has this week announced the birth of a litter of rare Sumatran tigers, part of the Global Breeding Program for Sumatran Tigers.

Born on 21 August, 2010, the playful cubs - two males and a female - are the offspring of mother Soraya and father Lari, who are deemed genetically valuable members of the Program. They will enjoy their first 'meet the press' moment later this week when media outlets will be able to photograph the little big cats.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Battle on to save tiger from extinction

Right now the world is focusing on saving one of the great beasts of the jungle, the tiger, from the brink of extinction.

This week Russia is playing host to an international tiger summit, and Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio has pledged $1 million towards the cause. Wildlife activists and officials from 13 nations where tigers live in the wild arrived in St Petersburg this week at the invitation of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The 13 countries where tigers still exist are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Money raised by DiCaprio and WWF through Save Tigers Now will go to fund antipoaching efforts and habitat protection in the 12 priority landscapes across Asia that WWF believes represent the best locations to maintain viable, thriving populations of tigers. The money will also fund advocacy and outreach activities to build support for tiger conservation.

The summit’s four day goal is for attendees to put their political weight behind vocalising imminent threats, and best practice protection and population recovery methods. There are currently just 3200 tigers living outside captivity in each of the countries represented.

Australia Zoo conservation manager Giles Clark claims there is little hope of turning the tide on other critically endangered flora and fauna if the tiger cannot be brought back from the brink. Mr Clark, who heads to Sumatra next week as part of an ongoing Australia Zoo initiative, said he had confidence the summit was more than a “talk fest”.

He said the Tiger Protection and Conservation Unit in the heart of Sumatran tiger homeland Kerinci Seblat National Park had proved the damage of the past decade could be undone. Australia Zoo has donated $150,000 to the TPCU this year.

“They (tigers) have proven to be incredibly resourceful and can bounce back if they and their habitats are left alone,” Mr Clark said.

From the archives: the Jingera Yahoo (1886)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

New rare Australian parrot identified

Aussie scientists have identified a new, critically endangered parrot species in Western Australia after analysing DNA from 27 museum specimens - some as far back as 160 years old.

The discovery makes the Western Ground Parrot one of the world's rarest parrots, with just over 100 birds remaining in one known location in Cape Arid National Park on the state's south-west coast.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy ecologist Stephen Murphy led a DNA detective team spread across four states and territories.

"The discovery has major conservation implications," said Dr Murphy. "The Western Ground parrot has declined rapidly in the last 20 years, there are now only about 110 birds surviving in the wild and most of these are confined to a single national park. It is now one of the world's rarest birds."

WA Department of Environment and Conservation's Dr Allan Burbidge said: "A single wildfire through the national park or an influx of introduced predators, such as cats, could rapidly push the species to extinction. There is now an urgent need to prevent further population declines and to establish insurance populations into parts of the former range."

"Our findings demonstrate that museum collections, some going back more than 150 years, continue to be relevant and can provide critical information for understanding and conserving the world's biodiversity into the future," said team member Dr Jeremy Austin, Deputy Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide.

Director of CSIRO's Australian National Wildlife Collection, Dr Leo Joseph, said: "Even after 200 years of study, we are still recognising new species of birds in Australia. This finding highlights the need for further research on Australia's unique, and sometimes cryptic, biodiversity."

The team's findings have been published this month in the international conservation research journal Conservation Genetics.

To find out more about the parrot, visit Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Inc.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Yowie researcher hits the airwaves

Australian yowie researcher Tony Mehmed is a special guest on the Nite Callers internet radio show this week. This is the second time Tony has appeared on the show, and apparently he's pulled one of the highest audiences the show has ever experienced!
Tony discovered his interest in the Yowie while in High School in 1980. His friend's dads would tell stories of large hairy creatures that would stand by the side of the highway and watch them as they drove by in their trucks. These stories captured Tony's attention and spawned a major interest in the subject.

Tony has been researching for more than 20 years and has had several close encounters with the Yowie and has photographed what many believe to be the image of a Yowie in one of his research areas.

Listen to the show at: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/nitecallers/2010/11/22/tony-mehmed-returns-to-nite-callers-radio

Orang Pendek update - new species?

Danish zoologist Lars Thomas has finished his analysis of the suspected Orang Pendek hairs brought back from the 2009 CFZ Sumatra expedition - and it sounds very promising indeed!

Read all about it here: http://forteanzoology.blogspot.com/2010/11/lars-thomas-analysis-of-orang-pendek.html

Sunday, 21 November 2010

CFZ India Expedition Returns

The CFZ India Expedition has returned - and early reports from HQ indicate it was a remarkably successful trip. The lads interviewed a number of Mande-Burung witnesses, photographed possible footprints, and obtained several samples including a fragment of bone from the femur of what appears to be a bipedal creature! Updates will be posted shortly over at www.cfz.org.uk

Black Panther cameos in Red Hill

Red Hill is the name of a new Australian thriller that has just hit local cinemas (and no doubt other parts of the world).

So what possible crypto reference could be contained in an antipodean western set in an Outback town with gun-slinging Australian policemen and escaped convicts hellbent on revenge?

Enter the black panther!

Ryan Kwanten's character is a city policeman looking for a quieter life in the country, but his move to Red Hill gets off to a strange start with reports of a mystery animal spooking horses and killing and eating cattle.

We won't say anymore about the film other than it looks like a decent action flick. This is also the first time since novelist Tim Winton's book In the Winter Dark was made into a film that we've seen a big cat reference hit the mainstream Down Under (forget the fact it has nothing to do with the main storyline!).

There is another Australian film project featuring our very own ABC - Gone Missing, from Idyllic Films - which is still seeking finance. You can watch the trailer below:

Tassie Tiger a red (herring) fox?

Let us just refresh your memory...Thylacine researcher Murray McAllister's footage of a mystery animal he says is a Thylacine has captivated the world in the past week.

But opinion is divided abut whether Murray's video shows a Thylacine or a fox, but a biologist seems to have clinched the debate - he says it's a fox, and he's studied its DNA!

"In my opinion, the video clearly shows a red fox running across the paddock, not a thylacine," said Jeremy Austin, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.

Austin said the man who shot the video, Murray McAllister, sent him DNA samples of the supposed Thylacine for testing. The samples tested positive for red fox.

So is the end of the debate? Perhaps, but it's certainly not the end of speculation that the Thyalcine stills exists in some shadowy corner of the Australian bush.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Yowie! hits the small screen

A Griffith University film student has made a film about one of Australia's favourite crypto critters, the Yowie. The film is inspired by the being from Aboriginal folklore, and based on two characters, couple James and Vivian, who are spending a weekend camping when a mysterious figure appears in the bush. The plot follows the couple as they battle to survive the night!

According to Australian Yowie Research, almost 10,000 sightings have been reported around the nation, the majority on the east coast, including bushland areas around Brisbane.

Similar to the North American Bigfoot and Himalayan Yeti, AYR believes two kinds of yowie live in Australia - a larger yowie which stands between 1.8 and 3 metres tall and a smaller version that stands between 1.2 and 1.5 metres, fully grown.

Interesting facts about yowies in Australia

* There have been almost 10,000 reported sightings of yowies across Australia.

* The name 'yowie' is believed to be an adaptation of Aboriginal names 'yuuri' and 'yowri' which were two commonly used words to describe the creature, particularly in NSW

* Yowies are believed to be similar to the equally mysterious ape-like creatures known as bigfoot (in the US), sasquatch (Canada), yeti (China) and chuchuna (Russia).

* The largest populations of yowies are believed to be in the remote mountain ranges of southeast Australia.

* Yowies have thick, dark skin on the face, with deep skin folds and a flattened, wide nose. They often have a strong odour. They are powerfully built with broad shoulders, a small neck and muscular legs, similar to an ape.

* Yowies have some serious body hair and walk upright.

Reported yowie sightings in Queensland

July 2009 - Rockhampton:
A driver, who had pulled off to the side of a road, reported seeing a a very tall, grey-haired creature with similar body features to a human standing on two limbs. The creature ran extremely fast and dove into scrub.

September 2002 - Beerwah:
A horticulturalist, name withheld, was in the Beerwah State Forest off Roy's Rd when he heard a high-pitched scream. He turned around and saw a ``black furry thing about waist-height'' which ``got taller, almost to my height''.

August 2001 - Laidley:
Mrs Crouten (first name withheld) was driving north towards Laidley Creek when a creature appeared on the right side of the road. It was walking on ``all fours'', was covered in dark hair and looked like a large version of an orangutan. Simlar sightings have been reported over the years.

Mid-2001 - Mount Tamborine:
A jogger was running along a road when he saw ``this big dark form''. As it turned to its side, he realised it was mobile, on two legs, and 2.13m-2.43m (7ft-8ft) tall.

1999 - Ormeau:
Jason C spotted something moving in bushland while clearing trees for a house construction. He recalls seeing an ``ugly thing'' sitting crouched in the bushes and decsribed it as an ``ugly human'' with dark brown hair body hair, a flat nose, a large head, about 2.74m (9ft) tall, long arms and solid. It ran in a side to side motion.

1977 - Springbrook:
Former Queensland National Party senator Bill O'Chee reported that he came face-to-face with a yowie while he was a young boy on a school camp. He said he was with a group of 20 fellow TSS students when they saw what they described as a 3m tall, hair-covered creature. It had a flat face and walked to the side in a crab-like style.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Adventures of Tim Tyler and 'Fang' the black panther #1

From rip-roaring 1930s Australia, when every youngster apparently dreamed of adventure in deepest, darkest Africa, we bring you a popular old comic about the antics of Tim Tyler, junior explorer, his good mate 'Spud' and 'Fang', his black panther companion! Each week we will bring you a 'new' Tim Tyler adventure...

From the archives: fishermen shoot sea monster (1935)

Thylacine extinction 'deliberate, calculated'

Psychology Today has a brilliant review of Paper Tiger: A Visual History of the Thylacine by Dr Carol Freeman on its website.

As a result of reading Freeman's thesis, reviewer Jonathan Balcombe writes: "I had mistakenly thought that the Thylacine's extinction was a tragic accident, when in fact it was a malicious thing, a result of deliberate efforts bent on its extermination."

"Anthropogenic extinction is hardly a new thing. After arriving in North America, European settlers ushered out the Carolina Lorikeet, the Steller's Sea Cow, the Labrador Duck, the Great Auk, and most famously the Passenger Pigeon.

"Island species are especially vulnerable because they have nowhere else to go. On Madagascar, the Dodo was clubbed and cooked to extinction within 100 years of the arrival of Portuguese sailors and Dutch settlers. It took the Maori a few centuries longer, but they too had neither the foresight nor the conviction to avoid sending several species of Moa to oblivion in New Zealand.

"A less known but equally compelling case is the Thylacine, the largest predatory marsupial of the modern era..."

Thursday, 18 November 2010

From the archives: hairy, scary Pilliga Yowie (1979)

For more contemporary Yowie reports, visit www.yowiefile.com or www.yowiehunters.com.au

Aussie natives hostage to foreign pet industry

Australian native animals are being illegally exported, bred and sold as pets overseas - despite many of them being illegal to own in their home country, or only available to those with extensive training and permits. Many of these animals commonly have a much longer life span than conventional domesticated pets such as dogs and cats.

The exotic pet trade is a lucrative one, and every year wildlife smugglers are exposed by customs officers trying to sneak reptiles, birds and small mammals out of this country.

Among the most popular species overseas are:

An obese pet Sugar Glider - over-fed by his owners.
Sugar gliders - Outside Australia, the Sugar Glider is a popular domestic pet, but is one of the most commonly traded wild animals in the illegal pet trade, where animals are plucked directly from their natural habitats. Although not endangered, this appealing little marsupial does not have much of a life to look forward to in foreign climes - its natural food of eucalyptus, acacia and gum tree nectar is scarce, leaving it to feed on the other things that make up its diet such as small insects. As a consequence, many become obese (such as the animal pictured above) and develop other health problems. Their native trees and vegetation are replaced with curtains and furniture upholstery. Life Span: 12-15 years. Wildlife status: Not Endangered.
A man and his full-grown pet wallaroo in the US.
Two young wallaroos kept in nappies!
Wallaroos - A wallaroo is any of three closely related species of macropod, intermediate in size between the kangaroos and wallabies. The name 'wallaroo' is derived from a combination of the words wallaby and kangaroo. In general, a large, slim-bodied macropod of the open plains is called a "kangaroo"; a small to medium-sized one, particularly if it is relatively thick-set, is a "wallaby": most wallaroos are only a little smaller than a kangaroo, fairly thickset, and are found in open country in Australia where they can bound around to their heart's delight. Abroad of course it's a different matter - they can be found trapped in suburban backyards and homes, some dressed up like dolls or wearing nappies. Life span: Up to 20 years. Wildlife status: Not Endangered.

A Bearded Dragon suffering from MBD - Metabolic Bone Disease, caused by poor
diet/animal husbandry - an agonising condition for the animal.
Bearded Dragons - The Inland or Central Bearded Dragon is found in arid, semi-arid woodlands and rocky deserts in central Australia, where they are incredibly fast and agile. While they can do well in captivity, they will miss that chance to stretch their legs. And poor diet can be a major issue for the reptiles, resulting in bone and other problems. Life Span: 10-20 years. Wildlife Status: Not Endangered.

And our bird life isn't immune either, with the species almost too numerous to mention but include many of our colourful and sizeable parrots. Judging by this Dept of Environment and Conservation press release, many of our smaller birds are also popular in foreign pet shops...

An Orange Chat in the wild.
A 43-year-old Bibra Lake man has been fined $1200 in Perth Magistrates Court for attempting to export protected Western Australian birds without a licence.

John Alan Middleton pleaded guilty to attempting to export 11 orange chats, five crimson chats, four white-fronted chats and three splendid fairy wrens in November 2008. 

The birds were part of two consignments tracked by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) as part of an operation involving wildlife authorities in three States.
DEC prosecutions coordinator Gail Ritchie said that due to the cramped conditions in which they were held, 12 of the birds were dead upon arrival in Sydney. 

"Wildlife smugglers have little or no regard for animal welfare, which is why native WA birds can only be legally exported interstate with a valid export licence issued by DEC," she said.

"Some orange chats can fetch up to $500 each on the black market and splendid fairy wrens can be worth up to $250 each but the message is clear - if you try to smuggle birds out of WA, you will be investigated and prosecuted."

The maximum penalty for each offence of illegally exporting and possessing wildlife under WA's Wildlife Conservation Act is $4000. 

Smuggled birds discovered stuffed into a small box. They'll most likely die from
dehydration or suffocation, or if they're discovered at the other end of their trip, they'll be
destroyed by Customs officials. They miss their wild life.
So next time you think about getting an exotic animal for a pet...maybe think again. Not everyone is equipped to cater to the special needs of these animals, and you may very well be unwittingly supporting a black market in unusual fauna that is best left in its natural environment.

If these birds survive the trip - and it looks as if these ones didn't - they're
destined for life in a cage. Can you imagine what hell that is for a wild bird?
Could you imagine anything crueler for an animal or bird than being stuffed in a cardboard tube, a suitcase, a small box or strapped to a human body unable to move, drink or feed?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

New digs for Devils @ Taronga Zoo

Now this is a very 21st century take on a zoo exhibit - a fake 'road' runs through the new Tasmanian Devil enclosure at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.

And in other news, The Guardian has this piece about the plight facing Tassie Devils, imaginatively entitled Sympathy for the Devil.

Extreme Mammals: Platypuses and Tasmanian Tigers

Australia's extinct Thylacoleo carnifex (Marsupial Lion), Thylacinus cynocephalus (Tasmanian Tiger) and the very much alive Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) star in a captivating new American exhibition, Extreme Mammals: The Biggest, Smallest, and Most Amazing Mammals of All Time, which explores the surprising and often extraordinary world of extinct and living mammals.

The Cleveland Museum exhibition also features spectacular fossils and other world-class Museum specimens, vivid reconstructions, and live animals, the exhibition examines the ancestry and evolution of numerous species, ranging from huge to tiny, from speedy to sloth-like, and displays animals with oversized claws, fangs, snouts and horns.

Highlights include taxidermy specimens—from the egg-laying platypus to the recently extinct Tasmanian wolf (also known as Tasmanian tiger)—and fleshed-out models of spectacular extinct forms, such as Ambulocetus, a “walking whale.”

Visitors will encounter an entire skeleton of the giant hoofed plant-eater Uintatherium, with its dagger-like teeth and multiple horns; the skeleton model of Puijila darwini, a newly discovered extinct “walking seal” from the High Arctic with webbed feet instead of flippers; a life-size model of Indricotherium, the largest land mammal that ever lived; one of the oldest fossilized bats ever found; and an impressive diorama featuring the once warm and humid swamps and forests of Ellesmere Island, located in the High Arctic, about 50 million years ago.

Extreme Mammals is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (www.amnh.org), in collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History; California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; and the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Thylacines vanish from Loch Sport, Victoria

Despite a number of Loch Sport residents and also tourists to the township having claimed sightings of thylacines (Tasmanian Tigers) over the years it appears that the thylacine may have ultimately met its doom and vanished from the area. 

During the late 1990s and even through to 2009 thylacine sightings were spasmodically recorded during most months and years. However since early 2009 the sightings have almost dried up to the point where the most recent sighting recorded was on January 30th 2010 in Loch Sport with a prior one recorded on January 17th near Golden Beach. Since then no other evidence has been produced or for that matter sightings been recorded.

Murray McAllister continues in his search for the thylacine and has detailed his efforts onto his website located at: - www.tassietiger.org

“It’s got to the point now where we really have to question the existence of the animal in Loch Sport. Through my research since 1998 I have found that the thylacine is very elusive to the point where we have seen the odd koala and emu here along with our one or two thylacine sightings but now all three species of animal are no longer about!” said Murray. 

“One now has to question human impact on the area!” said Murray. “A few years ago (2005) they had a big clean up of the Golf Course, removed a lot of the vegetation and poisoned off the rabbits. Maybe the poisoned rabbits were in turn eaten by the thylacines and they may have suffered a similar fate. The same for the Fox baiting programs have they also had an impact with the thylacines eating the fox baits?

Thylacine sightings used to plentiful at the front of the town near the Golf Course but now with the added “Fuel Reduction Burn Offs” the vegetation and landscape has been altered and the thylacines may have moved on!

“Kangaroos that had been hit by cars during road kill would often be dismembered in that they would quite often be found with their heads missing indicating a thylacine presence, now they remain largely untouched and rarely show signs of any predation. Perhaps the block clearing and house building that continues in Loch Sport also may have restricted thylacine movement in and throughout the township. It certainly isn’t as prevalent as it was almost a decade ago,” said Murray.

“It will be pretty sad if the animal doesn’t return to Loch Sport as it really had proven to be one of the last remaining sanctuaries where people like I held hope that the magnificent thylacine might still survive and re-establish itself as part of our unique Australian wildlife heritage. I’m hoping that people might eventually come forward in the near future to dispel my doubts about the animal no longer being sighted in and around Loch Sport but if we don’t hear anything significant within say the next 12 months we might have to give it up as an animal of the past. 

"Even though I’ve had over 20 sightings of the thylacine here, with others also having more than 10 sightings there has certainly been a disturbance to the natural wildlife throughout Loch Sport over recent times and nobody can explain the reasons why this has occurred. The kangaroo and wallaby populations along with bird life are also well down on the observations of the past and we need to investigate what has caused this change in an effort to lure the wildlife back!” said Murray.

“It’s not only just what I believe in but it’s also what makes Loch Sport a unique place to visit and live. If you lose the wildlife then people will not want to come down here. Where else in Australia do you see kangaroos along with the odd thylacine walking down the street?" posed Murray.

Source: The Link

Panther stalks Blue Mountains

Panther-like big cats here in the Blue Mountains? Surely not! Yet a string of people over the years insist they've seen or heard one.

Digging into their stories proved intriguing for writer/photographer Michael Williams and journalist Rebecca Lang, who recently published their book Australian Big Cats – An Unnatural History of Panthers.

They report that big cat sightings are a problem in many rural areas around Australia with substantial stock losses in some; they describe their book as "a meaty compendium of sightings, killing sprees, narrow escapes, myths and mysteries that have come to form an intriguing chapter of Australian folklore."

Monday, 15 November 2010

Is this a Thylacine?

Tonight Channel 9 news in Victoria aired the following footage, along with an overview of where the Thylacine cloning project is at - still going apparently, which means they must have sunk a few million into the project to date. Victorian researcher Murray McAllister captured the strange-looking animal on film a year ago - Thylacine or fox? Tell us what you think...

Mole Creek's Thylacine roots

The legendary Thylacine has not been hunted out of existence, it is alive and well and seen on a regular basis.

"The last sighting was only a month ago,"  Doug said. "Here, look at this," he enthused, proudly producing a caste of an animal footprint which he assured me was a tiger.
"Agreed, there aren't a lot of them, but they are out there."

Ramona is also a believer, having seen one crossing a road. It is also why the couple recently opened the gift store with its tiger theme.

Doug said tourists come from all over the world just to soak up the tiger ambience. 

New Thylacine footage on Channel 9?

If the rumour is true, TONIGHT tune in to Channel 9 News to see NEW THYLACINE FOOTAGE filmed in Gippsland, Victoria.

No idea at this stage who shot it or when, but the rumour mill has been busy and I just managed to confirm with Channel 9 that it is airing tonight on the news (not ACA), but no guarantee it will air in other states outside Victoria.

So Victorians, over to you - get those VCRs primed and ready to tape.

Steve Irwin Day - November 15, 2010

November 15 is 'Steve Irwin Day' at Australia Zoo, the zoological park first established by his father Bob Irwin and now run by his widow Terri. Pictured above is Bob (atop cage, with a crocodile inside) with Steve (right) and Steve's daughter Bindi.

The unconventional conservationist, whose TV success spawned the expansion of Australia Zoo at Beerwah, on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, was tragically killed by a stingray while filming on September 4, 2006.

Steve Irwin's father Bob said it was a very special day for many people around the world.

"This day will be celebrated by people in different ways to remember a true Aussie bloke who did make a difference," he said.

"For myself, every day is a Steve Irwin Day. I feel very fortunate and privileged to be Steve's dad."

Bob used the day to bring attention to a proposal for the development of two marinas in pristine Tin Can Bay, saying they would threaten the region's dugong and dolphin population.

"This is not a local issue. The area provides habitat for species that are threatened all over the world, and we need to make a stand and save some critical habitat for them," Mr Irwin said.

"I will continue Steve's message to fight for all those that do not have a voice."


Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Hunter sets his sights for Thylacine

Hollywood has descended upon Tasmania in the form of actors Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill, who are part-way through filming scenes for the new psychological thriller The Hunter. The picture above is a still from one of the scenes already shot.

Based on the book by Julia Leigh, filming will be underway until December 2010 in the last place the Tasmanian Tiger called home before its extinction.

But what's the book about?

The story revolves around M, the main character of The Hunter, a 'mystery man' searching for the mythical thylacine, the Tasmanian tiger. Assuming a false identity, that of Martin David, Naturalist, he presents an everyman figure, pursuant of unknown objectives.

A biotechnology corporation has employed him to find the animal for its own hidden purposes, and he has arranged to board with the Armstrongs, a family who live on the edge of the Central Plateau, a vast wilderness area in Tasmania. When he arrives, he finds the family bereaved by the recent disappearance of the father, Jarrah, a scientist, up on the plateau.

Jarrah's wife, Lucy, is grief-stricken and leaves her children, Sass and Bike, unsupervised, as she spends most of her time in her room in a drug-induced stupor. M will use the Armstrong house as the base camp for his frequent trips into the wilderness, and he must rely on the children to raise the alarm should he disappear on one of his journeys.

The interplay between the various 'missing' and 'mystery' beings in the book is cemented by the spectre of the lost Jarrah Armstrong, for whom M becomes a sort of 'substitute'. Fundamentally, though, M is the antithesis of Jarrah, for where Jarrah's science is about preservation, M's is about destruction; where Jarrah loved his family, M's feelings towards them remain obtuse. M is not naturally comfortable in a family situation, and for him the role of substitute is just that, a role. It is as if a part of M is missing - the part which feels compassion, or real love.

The legendary tiger is 'missing' too. Its elusiveness has made the tiger an iconic figure: the town is named Tiger Town, there is a Tiger Creek, the local butcher has on display a stuffed thylacine pup. It also raises the question of the tiger's presumed extinction: is this a tragedy or a necessity?

M has a dream in which he is pursued like the animal he is searching for; he is a figure who embodies the dichotomy which the tiger represents. About to commit what many would consider a monstrous act; he is also dangerously attractive.

The 'last' tiger's plight raises complex questions - is survival always a preferred option? Is extinction necessarily bad? No answers to these questions are offered - they are simply raised in an effort to highlight the uncertainties implicit in existence. The tiger also represents the 'beast within' us all. As M becomes more obsessed with his quest, he assumes the nature of his quarry.

Why 2010 was Uncon year...

Almost every year the Fortean Times holds its Unconvention, a fun and Fortean-filled weekend of speakers talking on all kinds of bizarre and unusual topics.
This year CFZers Tania Poole and Rebecca Lang (pictured with Caitlin Sagan) attended. To get an overview of this year's event, including the talk on Australian Big Cats, visit:


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